housesitting travel

Life as a housesitting traveller can be a wild ride

IF you had told me even a year ago that, within the space of a couple of weeks, I would have ridden a camel in the African desert, spotted whales in the Atlantic and been taken on a jerky trip through Lisbon’s narrow streets I probably would have believed those rumours about your drinking problem.

I’m not really a great adventurer, you know? The edge of my reserved seat at Lord’s or the Melbourne Cricket Ground is about as daring as it gets for me. Who’d want to be in a saddle atop a colossal camel or aboard a boat bobbing up and down beside an even more massive marine mammal?

But suddenly there I was, astride a two-metre tall dromedary named, for some reason, Bob Marley, with a pyramid or two in the background and sand as far as the eye could see.

Next minute — or so it seemed — I was on a boat called the Bahrayeli, tracking pilot whales and dolphins as the port of Los Cristianos and, in fact, the entire island of Tenerife, disappeared on the horizon behind me.

Actually, about three weeks passed between those two occasions, during which I also rode the No.12 tram in Lisbon, Portugal. That probably was even more scary.

You know how it is — when you are housesitting, you have to do something between walking the dog(s), feeding the cat(s), watering the roses, vacuuming the carpet and adoring your partner, and, besides, you might not ever be back in these parts of the world.

So you just take a deep breath and …

travelling as a housesitter can be a wild ride

The camel snuck up on me, really. Well, I mean, it did not literally tippy-toe across the sand behind me or anything like that, but we had been gazing at the wondrous pyramids at Giza when suddenly there we were, in the middle of a scene straight from Lawrence of Arabia.

“Oh, yes, you have to do it,” our Egyptologist guide Mahar said, as if it was mandatory. The extremely well rehearsed driver had Bob Marley in position within seconds. Come to think of it, my Bob was probably more alert than the real, late Bob — you know, all that hooch. 

So before I knew it I was climbing aboard, as if Bob were the No.48 tram in Melbourne.

Riding instructions?

“Lean back and hold on tight.”  How about that? Exactly the same as the Melbourne trams. Just as frightening.

The whaling expedition wasn’t so bad. The Bahrayeli is associated with Sea Shepherd, the non-profit marine wildlife conservation organisation; the Atlantic off Los Cristianos was calm; and at least a couple of whales made an appearance, along with some dolphins.

In fact they made an appearance quite close to the Bahrayeli. Fortunately, it was not the right time of year for the really big guys, or we might still be swimming to shore.

Depending on the season, the two-hour trips cost about €40 for one adult. You can pay more and get a beer and a snack on board. Show up at the port and you might even get a good discount.

Now to the No.12 tram in Lisbon. We are from Melbourne, Australia, so used to travelling by tram, but Lisbon’s hilly, narrow streets are something else.

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The Lisbon system has been in operation since the 1870s and you get the feeling that most of the trams are original.

The No.28 is the most popular with tourists, to the extent that you see bodies hanging out the doors. The No.12 is the third most popular, due in part to the fact that it shares the same rails as the No.28. 

The No.28 tram will take you from central Baixa up through Alfama and to the castle. The No.12 is  significantly less busy and departs/terminates close to central Lisbon. If you board in Baixa generally you can claim a seat before the busy tourist section close to the Se Cathedral.

A single ticket purchased from the driver costs €3. Better to use a pre-paid Viagem card, available from any Metro station, which makes the journey €1.50, or a 24-hour pass (€6.40).

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